What Kind of Exercise Do You Need to Reduce Your Risk of Dementia?

Experts have long believed that exercise can help protect against the development of dementia. However, although they observed a general pattern of risk reduction, studies on the topic have been small – and often contradictory – with little consensus on the collective type, frequency, or intensity. Education may be the best.

Dr Joel Salinas, assistant professor of neurology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, which specializes in treating people with dementia, said: I can give physical activity.

But three large long-term studies published in recent months have attempted to characterize the types, intensity, and duration of physical activity that offer the most overall protection against dementia. These studies, which followed thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people over many years, confirm that regular physical activity, in its many forms, plays an important role in reducing the risk of developing dementia. intellectual impairment.

Vigorous exercise seems to be best, but even non-traditional exercise, such as housework, can provide significant benefits. And, surprisingly, it was also effective at reducing risk in people with a family history of dementia.

inside first studyPublished July 27 in the journal Neurology, researchers analyzed the health information of 501,376 participants without dementia in a UK database called the UK Biobank to establish a relationship association between physical activity and the risk of disease development.

Dr. Huan Song, researcher at West China Hospital, Sichuan University, one of the study’s authors, said one of the main advantages of this database is that it has “very good data.” rich in genetics”. This included a risk profile of the participants based on whether they had genetic variants known to be linked to dementia or whether they had family members with the disease. this or not.

At the start of the study, participants filled out questionnaires detailing their participation in physical activities, such as playing sports, climbing stairs or walking, and whether they regularly walked. Or ride a bike to work or not. They were also asked about various lifestyle factors, including the frequency with which household chores were completed.

One of the main limitations of previous studies was that “the definition of physical activity was rather weak,” says Dr. Song. “Some use the total amount and some focus on only one mode of operation.” The British questionnaires give a specific level of detail about exactly what activities the participants are participating in on a regular basis.

Participants were followed for 11 years, during which time 5,185 developed dementia. Research shows that, in people who participate in regular, vigorous activity, such as playing sports or exercising, the risk of developing dementia is reduced by 35%. Surprisingly, those who reported regularly completing household chores also received a significant benefit; they have a 21% lower risk.

“Some people sweat quite a bit when they do housework,” said Dr. Sandra Weintraub, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. “It’s possible that if you do three hours of housework, you’re as good as if you’d done 30 minutes of aerobics.”

For Dr. Salinas, who recommends 150 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity exercise per week, the results reinforce the idea that regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise can promote health. brain. Cultivating this exercise routine “has the potential to have a very profound synergistic effect,” he said. “You get more for your money in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Perhaps most encouragingly, the link between physical activity and reduced dementia risk extended to participants with a family history of dementia.

“It’s very important to know that if you have a family history of dementia, you can use physical activity to reduce your risk,” says Dr.

The second paper, published last week in the journal Neurology, compiled 38 studies to see which recreational activities were associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Overall, the studies followed more than two million participants without dementia for at least three years, of which 74,700 developed dementia.

After controlling for age, education level and gender, the researchers found that the participants engaged in regular exercise – defined as engaging in activities such as walking, running, swimming , dancing, participating in sports or exercising – had a 17% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.

This meta-analysis suggests that the prevention of dementia is not limited to one activity, or even one type of activity. Because of the variety of physical activities participants engage in, “we recommend that everyone do exercises that you enjoy,” said Le Shi, a researcher at Peking University and one of the researchers. said the study’s author.

When it comes to reaping the benefits of physical activity, it’s never too early to start. In one third study Published this month, researchers followed more than 1,200 children ages 7 to 15 for more than 30 years. People with higher fitness levels in childhood had higher levels of cognitive activity in mid-life, suggesting that establishing lifelong physical activity habits can benefit brain health.

Together, these studies show how the ways we move our bodies on a daily basis can add up over time. They also reinforce the view that regular, lifelong physical activity, in any form, will help reduce the risk of dementia, even for those classified as high-risk.

“Your brain is part of your body and will benefit from whatever you do benefits your general health,” says Dr. Weintraub.

Rachel Fairbank is a freelance science writer living in Texas.

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